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County supervisors adopt $967.3 million budget

The Monterey county Herald, June 24, 2009

County supervisors put the final touches on the 2009-10 budgets Tuesday, but not before shooting off more angry letters to state officials in protest of proposals to raid local coffers.

The board unanimously adopted a $967.3 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year that includes additional spending for the county's Convention and Visitors Bureau, and to keep a pair of positions filled, one in the Military and Veterans Affairs Office and another in the Resource Management Agency.

But Rosie Pando, assistant county administrative officer, the county's head budget administrator, said the budget is a temporary spending plan because state officials need to balance their own budget, which is facing a $24.3 billion shortfall for 2009-10. State officials have suggested they might raid local funds to balance their budget.

"It's been a hard, long process (already), but it's not over," Pando said.

With the state's problems in mind, the board approved a series of letters protesting proposed state takeaways. The state has proposed keeping $1.7 billion in local gas tax funding, a plan that was passed by a state budget committee last week and would cost the county an estimated $11 million in road maintenance money.

The board decided in a closed session to join a lawsuit aimed at challenging the state's ability to snatch the gas tax funds. Supervisors agreed by a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Lou Calcagno dissenting, to join other counties in proposing a 5 cent per gallon gas tax increase, which would require two-thirds voter approval, to backfill the expropriated funds.

Calcagno said he couldn't put his name on anything proposing new taxes after he said voters sent a clear message in the May 19 special election that they didn't want them.

The board backed letters urging the state legislature to approve a "fair and balanced" budget that balances service cuts with new revenues, and another supporting a $15 vehicle license fee increase to keep state parks open. The latter proposal would cancel day use state park fees for cars with California license plates.

The board approved a one-year contract extension with about 3,000 employees represented by Service Employees International Union Local 521.

That came despite a protest from former union official Jule Filice and several former top union representatives, who urged the board to delay the vote while they pursued reports of irregularities during a contract ratification vote last week.

Filice, who supports decertification of the union in favor of a competing union, told the board that employees have reported being intimidated during the vote. SEIU spokeswoman Debbie Silva scoffed at the allegations and noted what she called an "incredible" turnout for the vote.

Jim Johnson can be reached at 753-6753 or jjohnson@montereyherald.com.

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